Below is a catalogue of the many beautiful and historic churches that can be found in Limerick city, Ireland. Included with each is a photo of the church along with a short history. Refer to the legend of abbreviations if you’re unsure of any meanings.
St Mary’s Cathedral is one of the most photographed of Limerick city. The Cathedral of Saint Mary Blessed Virgin has had a long and eventful history. It was founded in 1168 on the site of a palace donated by Donal Mor O’Brien, King of Munster. It is believed that parts of the palace are incorporated into the present structure of the Cathedral. The most prominent being the West Door, which tradition has it was the main entrance to the palace. The palace had been built on the site of the Viking meeting house. This had been the centre of government in the early medieval Viking city.
In the 1651 after Cromwell’s forces captured the City the Cathedral was used as a stable by the parliamentary army. Luckily the Cathedral survived this relatively unscathed. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city and the oldest still used for it’s intended purpose. The graveyard includes many interesting plots, including Roman Catholic graves (Shanny’s, Clancy’s, Hayes’s) who were fishermen in the Abbey Area, folklore tells us that the Clancy‘s were bequeath their plot by Donal Mor O’Brien himself as they were the family Brehon (lawyers) to the O’Briens. It is unknown how the Shannys also retained their plot.
Some of the headstones in St. Mary’s Graveyard have been photographed and transcribed here.
In the churchyard there is also a memorial to those who died while in service with the United Nations.
St John’s Church of Ireland standsalign= on the site of an earlier church, which dated from the 1200s. The walls around the graveyard were built in 1693 and present church was built in 1852. The church fell into disuse in the early 1970s and was handed over to the Limerick Corporation in 1975. The interior was completely redesigned and for a period the church was used as a base for the Dagdha Dance Company.
St Michael’s Church of Ireland was consecrated in 1844, it is also known as “the sinking church” as it was not built on bed rock and has sunk ever so slightly over the years. The church replaced an older church St. George’s on O’Connell Street, which was founded in 1789.
St. Munchin’s Church (Church of Ireland) built in 1827. Designed by The Paine brothers who gave the building a Gothic style. The four pinnacles at the top of the tower provide this church a distinguished aspect. The church is situated in King’s Island, between the Bishop’s Palace and the Villier’s Alms Houses. It was built in 1827 and was renovated in 1980 by the Limerick Civic Trust. It was a used for a period by the Island Theatre Company.
St John’s Cathedral The Cathedral of St John the Baptist is the present day Cathedral in Limerick City was built in 1856. The chapel which this replace was founded in 1753. The link between St John the Baptist and the area around the Cathedral is long standing. According to Begley, the Knights Templars had a house in the area in the 12th century that was dedicated to John the Baptist. It boasts the tallest church spire in Ireland. Desgined by Philip Charles Hardwick, who was also working on Adare Manor at the time. Seventeen years after it’s opening work began on the spire, this was designed by Hennessy’s of Limerick.
The bell in the steeple was carried to Limerick from Dublin, by barge using the canal systems, more information on the Limerick sideo fthe canal can be found on the Canal Walk page.
St. Mary’s Church as we know it today was opened in 1932. It replaced a previous chapel which had stood in this spot since 1748, having it’s first mass read on the 10th December 1749. All that remains of the original eighteenth-century church are the holy water font and a plaque at the rear of the new church.
This land was originally rented from Alderman Ingrim and replaced a rented Malt House which had been used by the local parishioners for worship. The new church was designed by Ashlin & Coleman of Dublin at a cost of £40,000.
For hundreds of years there was a church on the site on Denmark Street that now contains St. Michael’s Church. The site originally housed a medieval parish church, dismantled after the Siege of 1651, in ruins by 1654. Following the Reformation the first St. Michael’s began construction in 1779 and was officially opened n the 29th September 1801. It was enlarged in 1805, and Daniel O’Connell used it as a speaking post for some of his rallies. This was to be replaced in 1881 by the structure with the golden angel on the top that we know today, which was designed by M.Morris.
Situated on Clancy’s Strand St. Munchin’s Church was built in 1922 to replace older church of the same name which had been on the site since the easing of the Penal Laws in the mid 1th century. St. Munchin is the patron saint of Limerick. The name comes from “little monk” as the Saint’s original name has been lost with time.
The picture below shows both St. Munchin’s, the earlier chapel was built in 1799, this was built on a yet earlier chapel which was erected in 1744, this was the first Catholic Chapel built in Limerick City after the Reformation.
The Augustinian Church on situated at the heart of the city on O’Connell Street. The front wall contains the lintel from an older church found in Fish Lane dated 1633. Erected on the site of the old Limerick Theatre building, which was purchased by the Augustinians in 1844, and although there were improvements made the structure remained intact for almost 100 years. In 1939 the first stone was laid for the new building and work was completed in 1942 at a cost of $42,000. The building was designed and built by two Dublin firms, Jones & Kelly, and, George Walsh & Sons.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, built in 1816 on Clare Street and replaced the Penal Chapel. The building of the church was funded by the Harrold family, a family of hoteliers to whom a plaque was erected on the site of the hotel at Troy’s Lock on the Park Road. The original St Patrick’s Schools were at the rear of the church the school opened in 1865.
A fragment of the Penal Chapel which served St Patrick’s Parish between 1750 and 1816 it stood on Parkhill Rhebogue. After the building of St. Patrick’s Church the Penal Chapel was dismantled.
The present day church was built in 1815/6 when the Dominicans moved from Fish Lane under the leadership of Fr Joseph Harrigan. Edward Henry, the Earl of Limerick donated the land to the Dominicans. The original church here was a plain church and it gave the impression of Gothic architecture. The church was designed by the Pain (sometimes spelt as Payne) brothers to replace the penal chapel in Fish Lane.
The foundation stone of the church was laid on 27 March 1815 in the presence of Dr Tuohy, Bishop of Limerick and the Father Provincial of the Dominicans, Patrick Gibbons. The architect John Wallace renovated the present church in 1861/4. A clerestory was added raising the height of the church by 20 feet. The church is dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour Transfigured.
Also known as the Redemtorist. Having operated out of a temporary church structure since 1854 the foundation stone for the new church was laid by Bishop Ryan on the 22nd May, 1858. His successor, Bishop Butler, dedicated the completed church in December, 1862. The cost was £17,000. Below is an aerial photograph of Mount Saint Alphonsus during the 1950s. As well as a photograph of the church today.
The Archconfraternity of the Holy Family
The Limerick chapter of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Family, sprang from the Limerick Young Men’s Society upon its demise in 1867. The Redemptorist Fathers had established themselves in the community, fourteen years previously, in the Church of Mount St. Alphonsus. This new Confraternity of the Holy Family, with its patroness Mary, Mother of Perpetual Succour began in January 1868. Following the example of the Holy Family at Liege in Belgium, a Mission was held to the men of the city. During this Mission, great numbers of men who had been absent from their duties for years and years received the Sacraments of Confirmation, Confession and Holy Communion’. The motive for the commencement of the Society was to raise the religious tone of the men of Limerick, and unite them in one firm association for their spiritual good.
The Jesuits Church or Sacred Heart Church located in the Crescent at the top of O’Connell Street, it was built in 1868 and the façade dates from 1900. The Jesuits closed the doors on this building in 2006 and the site was later sold to a private investor. In 2012 the church once again returned into the hands of a religious order.
St Joseph’s church on O’Connell Avenue was built in 1904. It was originally used as a chapel of ease to accommodate the growing population of for St Michael’s parish. The architect of the church was Mr W E Corbett and the builders were John Ryan & Sons. Mr Byrnes gave the site for the church.
The church has acquired the nickname ‘the church of the spite’ because it is situated across the road from the Jesuits’ Church of the Sacred Heart. At the time of the building of St Joseph’s, the then bishop, Bishop O’Dwyer objected to the Jesuits using a two-tier system for worshippers. The wealthy people sat at the front of the church while the ordinary people sat at the back. Despite attempts from Bishop O’Dwyer, the Jesuits refused to change this system and it was decided that a new church was needed which would not have this practice of separation.
The Franciscan Church on Lower Henry Street the foundation stone of the church was laid by Dr. Butler, Bishop of Limerick, in May 1876. The present site on Henry Street was acquired in 1824, and a church was built in 1826 and a friary in 1827. The builders were McCarthy and Guerin and the architect was William Corbett. The church was completed in 1886. The Dominican Church has been renovated in two occasions: in 1928/30 when it was also extended and in 1968. Since June 2008 this church remains closed.
The Franciscans were present in Ireland for about 700 years originally located an Abbey near Sir Harry’s Mall. Thomas de Burgo established this first monastery. The monastery became known as Saint Francis Abbey, the name it retained during the Suppression. The Abbey River, Abbey area and Abbey Fishermen derives their name from the Abbey located in the area. The friars were expelled from the city for a short time in 1651, during which time it is said that the Abbey Fishermen fed them. After this they successfully regained occupation of their residence at the junction of Athlunkard Street and Nicholas Street. A site in Newgate Lane was acquired in 1782, on which a chapel and friary was built.
Tucked away on a quite cul-de-sac is the oldest standing religious structure in Limerick City, and possibly the oldest building with it’s walls still standing, it was first recorded in 1201 but is believed to date from the 10th century.
Christ Church is a united Presbyterian and Methodist congregation which was formed when the two separate congregations united in the early 1970′s.
Presbyterian Church off Glentworth Street
This Presbyterian Church built in 1817 to accommodate the increasing Presbyterian congregation in the city is hidden away down a little alley and is very difficult to photograph. It was sold to the printers George McKern and Sons Ltd. in 1904 who remain there today.
Presbyterian Church, Henry Street.
Built in 1901 this building is no longer in religious use, the community merged with the Methodist community and relocated their church to Christ Church on O’Connell Street in the early 1970s.
The Baptist Church on O’Connell Avenue was built in 1894. In 1994 the adjoining St. Joseph R.C. acquired the building as it’s parish centre.
The Methodist Church was established in 1739 by John Wesley, as an evangelical Protestant Christian cultivation. The first conference of the Irish Methodists Church was held in Limerick in 1752, and it was chaired by John Wesley. Central Hall, the Methodist chapel, Bedford Row built c. 1820 in use until 1920. The façade was hidden behind the face of the Grand Central Cinema until 2007. It is now incorporated into a glass faced building.
Trinity Church which is integrated into the streetscape of Catherine Street was an Episcopal church built in 1834 through subscriptions raised by the Venerable Edward Newenham Hoare. It was built as a place of worship for the adjoining asylum for blind females . The building has been in government use since the 1960s and is now used as part of the HSE.